Various Artists

Best of the West [Ryko]

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MGM corralled several notable westerns in the late 1950s and 1960s, which often featured soundtracks by top composers like Elmer Bernstein, Jerry Goldsmith, Alex North, and Dimitri Tiomkin. This is a fine compilation of 16 tracks from 11 MGM films of the era (though one, from The Return of a Man Called Horse, is of 1976 vintage), all infused with the overblown yet seductive drama typical of western scores. Some of these endure among the greatest exponents of the western soundtrack style, particularly Elmer Bernstein's "Magnificent Seven" theme and Dominic Frontiere's "Hang 'Em High," which was covered for a pop-soul hit by Booker T. and the MG's. Not every cut here has as much appeal for general pop listeners (as opposed to soundtrack specialists), but some do, like jazz drummer Shelly Manne's infectious "The Train" (with its snaky harmonica and flamenco guitar interplay) and Jerry Goldsmith's "The Hour of the Gun," which was about as equally suitable for a spy movie as a western.

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